Kinim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Six



As we know, when a woman gives birth she will have to bring a pair of birds, one of which is offered as a hatat and one as an olah. She does not need to voluntarily take on this obligation. It is automatic. Our mishnah deals with a woman who before she gives birth, vows to bring a pair of birds if she gives birth to a male. She will now be obligated to bring two pairs of birds.

I should warn you—this mishnah is complicated. But it’s the last mishnah of the tractate and the seder (game, set and match), so we should give it careful attention. You can fall on your knees and kiss the trophy afterwards.


Mishnah Six

1)      If a woman says: “I vow a pair of birds if I give birth to a male child,” and she does give birth to a male child, then she must offer up two pairs — one for her vow and one for her obligation.  

2)      If [before she assigned them] she gave them to the priest, and the priest who ought to offer three birds above and one below does not do so, but offers two above and two below, and does not seek guidance, she must she bring another bird and offer that above.

a)      This is so if the birds were of the same kind.

b)      If they were of two kinds, then must she bring two others.  

3)      If she had expressly defined her vow, then must she bring three other birds. 

a)      This is so if the birds were of the same kind.

b)      If they were of two kinds, then must she bring four others.  

4)      If she made a definite fixture at the time of her vow, then must she bring another five birds.

a)      This is so if the birds were of the same kind.

b)      If they were of two kinds, then must she bring six others.  

5)      If she gave them to the priest and it is not known what she gave, and the priest performed the sacrifice, but it is not known how he performed it, then she must bring four other birds for her vow,  and two for her obligation  and one for her hatat.

a)      Ben Azzai says: [she must bring] two hatats.  

6)      Rabbi Joshua said: This is what it meant when they said: “When [the beast] is alive it possesses one sound, but when it is dead its sound is sevenfold.”  In what way is its sound sevenfold? Its two horns [are made into] two trumpets, its two leg-bones into two flutes, its hide into a drum, its entrails for lyres and its large intestines for harp strings; and there are some who add that its wool is used for the blue [pomegranates.] 

7)      Rabbi Shimon ben Akashiah says: ignorant old people, the older they become, the more their intellect gets befuddled, as it is said: “He removes the speech of men of trust and takes away the sense of the elders.”   But when it comes to aged scholars, it is not so. On the contrary, the older they get, the more their mind becomes composed, as it is said: “With aged men comes wisdom, and understanding in length of days.”



Section one: This woman must offer up two pairs of birds—one pair for her obligatory offerings and one for her voluntary offerings. The birds brought as voluntary offerings will be olot and of the birds brought as obligatory offerings one will be a hatat and one an olah.

Section two: The priest should offer three as olot, meaning he should spill their blood above the red line, and one as a hatat, whose blood is spilled below the red line. Rather, the priest seems to have treated both as if they were obligatory offerings (his mistake seems quite understandable), and spilled the blood of two above the red line and the blood of the two others below the red line. He did not come to ask advice beforehand. The woman must now bring one more bird to be an olah, for one of the birds he offered below was invalid.

The above halakhah is true if all of the birds that she brought were of one type—either pigeons or turtle-doves.

However, if she brought one pair as one type and the other pair as another type, and the priest did one pigeon above and one pigeon below and the same with the turtle-doves, she now must bring two new birds, one a turtle-dove and one a pigeon. The reason is that we don’t know which of the two birds that he did below was disqualified—the pigeon or turtle-dove and the replacement that she brings must be of the same type. Therefore, she brings one of each and both are offered as olot.

Section three: If when the woman made the vow she set the type of bird she would bring, a pigeon or turtle-dove, and then by the time she brought them, she forgot what type of bird she had vowed, and again the priest offered two above and two below, she will now have to bring three new birds, all of which will be olot. Since she didn’t know what her vow was, she should have brought a pair of birds from each type, one pair of pigeons and one pair of turtle-doves. In addition, she of course had to bring a pair for her obligatory offerings. Now that one bird was disqualified by being offered below, she must bring a replacement for that bird, and then another pair of the other type of bird that she did not bring.

Again, the above is true if all of the birds that the woman brought were of the same type.

If she brought two different types, then she must bring four new birds as olot. We’ll go through this slowly. One of the birds done below is valid as a hatat, and the other is an invalid olah. But we don’t know whether the invalid olah was supposed to a turtle-dove or a pigeon, because don’t know whether she vowed to bring pigeons or turtle-doves. So both of the birds done above are also invalid. Therefore, she has to bring two new pairs; a pair of pigeons in case this is what she vowed, and a pair of turtle-doves, in case this is what she vowed.

Section four: In this case, again when the woman made the vow she set the type of bird she would bring and then forgot which type she set. Then she brings two pairs, all of one type, and in this case she determined which type would be for her voluntary offering and which type would be for her obligatory offering. Again, the priest offered one pair above and one pair below. In this case she must bring five more birds, all of which will be offered as olot. She must bring two birds of the type that she did not bring, because she should have brought two pairs in the beginning, one of pigeons and one of turtle-doves. She then must bring three of the same type that she did bring. Two of these will be for the olah, lest the priest offered one of the pair that should have been an olah as a hatat below, and both were thereby invalidated. She must bring another bird as a hatat, lest both birds that the priest offered as a hatat were meant to be olot.

Again, all of this was true if she brought all of her birds from one type.

If she brought two different types, then she will have to bring SIX new birds. In this case we don’t know which pair she brought as a voluntary offering because we don’t know which type she set as a voluntary offering. Indeed, she may have brought both as voluntary offerings, as she was supposed to do, and not brought her mandatory offering at all. Or she might have brought one as a voluntary offering and one as a mandatory offering.

In this case, it is possible that all of the birds were meant to be olot, and the two done below were both disqualified. It is also possible that the obligatory offerings were done correctly, but the voluntary offerings were done incorrectly, and we don’t know which was done incorrectly, the turtle-dove or pigeon. We also don’t know which type of birds she vowed to bring in the first place
.  In short, due to all of the things we don’t know, she must bring four new birds as olot, one pair of turtle-doves and one pair of pigeons. She also has to bring two birds to be her mandatory offerings.

Section five: Finally, it is possible to add on to the previous scenario the possibility that she doesn’t even know what type of birds she brought. Furthermore, the priest offered them up but doesn’t remember whether he offered them up below or above. Basically no one knows anything whatsoever.

She has to bring now a total of SEVEN birds. Two pairs she brings as voluntary offerings, one pair of turtle-doves and one pair of pigeons. She also brings a hatat, lest the hatat that she previously brought was invalidated, for it is possible that both birds from the mandatory offering were done above. However, it is also possible that the priest performed the mandatory offering below, which would mean the hatat was valid. But in this case she would need to bring a replacement olah to go with that hatat, and since we don’t know what type it needs to be, she must bring two more birds to go with the hatat that might have been valid.

Ben Azzai says she must bring two hataot, one a turtle-dove and one a pigeon. The reason is that the olah of the mandatory offerings might have been done properly, and she needs to bring a hatat of the same type. This matches Ben Azzai’s opinion in 2:5, that the second bird offered must be of the same type as the first bird. Since we don’t know what type was offered, she must bring one of each.

Section six: Rabbi Joshua provides a colorful analogy to the above strange situation, in which a woman vowed to bring one pair of birds, and ends up bringing seven birds (or eight according to Ben Azzai). While a ram is alive it has only one voice, but its body parts can be used in making seven different instruments. Like Ben Azzai, who adds an eighth instrument, some note that from the wool of the ram, one can make the clothes of the high priests, upon which pomegranate bells are hung (see Exodus 28:33). Thus, the woman used her singular voice and became obligated to bring seven or eight birds.

Section seven: As is typical, the tractate ends with an aggadic statement—a statement whose intent is moral or spiritual and less legal. It is possible that this aggadah was chosen because this mishnah concludes Seder Kodashim, and Seder Kodashim is called in the Talmud “wisdom.”

It is interesting to note that the idea that scholars retain their mental faculties longer than those who do not engage their minds has been borne out by modern medical science (at least from what I read). Elderly people who engage in intellectual pursuits whatever they may be, or play brainy types of games, can, to a certain extent, delay the decline in their mental faculties. In other words: use it or lose it.


Congratulations!  We have finished Tractate Kinim and Seder Kodashim!

It is a tradition at this point to thank God for helping us finish learning the tractate and to commit ourselves to going back and relearning it, so that we may not forget it and so that its lessons will stay with us for all of our lives.

As I said in the intro—game, set and match to all of you who stuck with Mishnah Yomit as we made our long way through Seder Kodashim. I may be wrong, but I’m certainly not far off, when I say that rare has been the occasion when this type of material has been studied for such an extended period of time by an audience such as that which participates in Mishnah Yomit. To me United Synagogue and the Conservative movement made an important statement by studying this material: the entire Torah is worthy of learning, and not just those sections that seem immediately relevant to our personal lives. We began our odyssey into Mishnah Yomit with Seder Nezikin because I thought that would be the most concrete, most down to earth of the Sedarim (pl. of seders). We moved onto Nashim and Moed, both of which were frequently relevant to modern day issues. Zeraim already began to be a little more esoteric, and Kodashim, in my opinion, is far more removed from any of our experience. Nevertheless, there were fascinating mishnayot throughout, rules, descriptions, etc. And most importantly, we all continued to learn. If you’ve been with us since the beginning, you’ve now finished 5/6 of the Mishnah. Completion (at least the first round, because Torah study is never really completed) is closer than ever!

The road that lies ahead of us is not easy. Seder Toharot is next, beginning with thirty (!) chapters of Tractate Kelim. But if you’ve made it this far, there is no doubt in my mind that you will continue to study with us. One step-one mishnah at a time.

Again, Yasher Koah on finishing Tractate Kinim and Seder Kodashim. Tomorrow we begin Tractate Kelim and Seder Toharot.